Today, let’s listen to a Dutch song by Cornelis Vreeswijk. Those of you who are familiar with Cornelis or just have been regulars on here will know that Cornelis songs and poems in Swedish, but he was born in the Netherlands and released a few albums in his birth country as well.
This song is kind of similar to the Swedish Grimasch om Morgonen (my favourite song by Cornelis), as it has the same melody as Grimasch and the lyrics of both share some common themes, nonetheless I guess it wasn’t meant to be just a Dutch version of Grimasch because some aspects of it are totally different. In Grimasch om Morgonen, there’s Ann-Kat(a)rin Rosenblad who is a recurring character in Cornelis’ songs. The Dutch equivalent of Ann-Katrin is Marjolijn/Marjolein (I’ve honestly no idea which spelling is the right one as both are legit forms of this name in Dutch and I’ve seen both used in reference to this particular lady). As you guys know, I don’t speak Dutch (yet), but the translation for this song was kindly written for me by Hans Heemsbergen.
Today, I have for you a very interesting song by Cornelis Vreeswijk. I’ve always found it very interesting and have wondered what it’s trying to convey. I mean of course birds are partly a metaphor and partly a comparison for humans and various constraints of their existence, but some things here seem to have different layers of meaning and I don’t know if I get it all right. The lyrics to this song were written by Cornelis, but I’m sure that anyone who has some more interest in his music would pick up that the same could not be true about this interesting tune, and they’d be right, because it was composed by the jazz musician Björn J:son Lindh, who also plays piano here. The song comes from one of my favourite albums as a whole by Cornelis, Poem, Ballader och Lite Blues (Poems, Ballads and a Bit of Blues). One line in this song has quite an unusual grammatical structure, which I find kind of confusing so I translated it in two ways because I’m just not sure which one makes more sense, and perhaps neither is very good.
Birds who are old have their own forest Birds who are sick do not sing anything Birds who are in love do not buy a ring Birds never sit at a bird pub The souls of the birds never know about birds [/The birds never know about the birds’ souls]
Birds who are dead have no grave The one who was a bird was not seen And she who got wings immediately flew away Birds that can remember are a rare species No one can fly on their own when they want The birds’ grandfather eats raw eggs Birds that are sad grow beards Grandpa’s parrot is damn smart He has always been unlucky in love No bird understands what he desires But something’s not quite right somewhere Birds who can fly, I sure love you But I will never fly again
Last month, I shared with you Visa om ett Rosenblad by Cornelis Vreeswijk. Today I thought we could listen to another version of it, sung by Cornelis’ son Jack. If I had to say which version I like more I’d have a really hard time because I find them both really beautiful and gripping, each in its own way. I wrote the translation and shared some thoughts about the song in the post with the original version.
Today I’d like to share with you a lovely, kind of bittersweet and very jazzy song from Cornelis Vreeswijk. The melody to this song was actually composed by Georg Riedel, who is a Czech-born Swedish jazz musician and who, after Cornelis’ death, released an album called Cornelis vs Riedel, with his arrangements of Cornelis’ poems, sung by his daughter Sarah and Nikolai Dunger, several of which I’ve shared on here in the past.
I like this song for quite a few different reasons, but I think mostly because, while it sounds like a very clear allegory of the oh so commonly occurring and depicted, classic theme in romantic relationships where a man manipulates a woman just to hurt her and eventually leave, over the years, as I’ve been listening to this song again and again, I have realised that it also works as an allegory for many other less obvious things, or has not so obvious mini allegories within it, though no idea if it was a conscious/deliberate thing on Cornelis’ part. Perhaps it’s just one of those things in which everyone sees something a little different, or the same individual sees something a little different in it with each listen. And then I’m pretty sure that, on a more personal level for Cornelis, Ann-Katrin Rosenblad (a character who frequently appears in his songs and poems), or her real-life counterpart(s) must also be present somewhere here, it must be about a “rosenblad” for a reason. Regardless, I like how sensitively all of these allegories are handled here. I also do really like it musically, even though regular people on here know that I am generally not overly big on jazz. The translation below is Bibielz. Bibielz had no particular issues writing it, because the original lyrics are quite easy and uncomplicated language-wise, so it should be more or less alright.
Once upon a time, there was a little rose petal
And the rose on which she grew was red
Then one day she fell off because the rose was dead
Then an icy wind passed by, then she was happy
Because the wind was a cheerful and fiery guy
Who was on his way from south to north
He blew her ear full of beautiful words
Come, sweetheart, said the wind, come
Then she got dizzy
She couldn’t resist what he said
She gave him everything he asked for
He brought her with him to a big rich city
Here will the two of us live, he said.
And she said yes
But the wind was an unfaithful specimen
Who only wanted to tumble around in the sky
He blew her away from himself, she fell down into the mud
Today I want to share with you a little song from one of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s earlier albums – Tio Vackra Visor och Personliga Persson (Ten Beautiful Songs and Personal Persson) – which isn’t necessarily my favourite song of his (that HAS to be Grimasch om Morgonen) or probably isn’t even in the top 3 of my favourite songs of his, yet I have a little bit of a sentiment for this song, because it’s kind of cute, but also because when I first came across it I thought it was “Bisbis Visa”, and I went by Bisbis before it further evolved into Bibiel/Bibielle. 😀 But it’s obviously not “Bisbis Visa”, ‘cause even Bisbis’ Dad was merely a foetus when this album came out lol. Instead, it is Bibi Andersson’s visa, in whose case it stands for Berit Elisabet).
This whole album of Cornelis is strongly inspired by the first time he spent in Brazil and Brazilian music and culture, because around that time (1968) he was playing in the film Black Palm Trees set in that country. Bibi Andersson was there too as she played one of the main roles – a Finnish girl called Elin Papilla – so they probably got to hang out a fair bit. – As it happens, I’ve read that she did lose her bracelet, so the story’s actually real. 😀 I am sharing Cornelis’ own version, but also that of his son Jack, as I like both a lot. The translation below is Bibiel’s. One line I had a mini problem with was the one with the “blue gaze”, because I don’t recall ever actually seeing anyone using the word “gaze” like this in English, to basically mean eyes, so I’m not sure if it works or sounds odd, but the original Swedish word does literally mean “gaze”, and we also use this word like that in Polish, and putting “eyes” in there felt kind of simplistic.
I have a bracelet which is yours It is of plastic and it is white Now I just wanted to ask you Shall I keep it or not? I have a bracelet which I have hidden It is your bracelet which you have forgotten And where I live I guess you know Come here and look in case you want Come here and look one beautiful day Because you are beautiful and I am weak Well I am weak, for your gaze is blue Come here and take your bracelet then I have a bracelet which is yours It is of plastic and it is white Now I just wanted to ask you Shall I keep it or not?
Yeah, I decided that, given the fact that it was Cornelis’ death anniversary on Saturday, I want to share yet another song by him, but this time it’s his original song and vastly different from the lullaby I shared yesterday, as it’s quite rough and filled with intense yucky feelings. It always reminds me of Gustav Fröding’s poem Ett Gammalt Bergtroll (An Old Mountain Troll) which Cornelis also interpreted since I’d say it kind of deals with the same thing.
This song is featured in the soundtrack to Amir Chamdin’s 2010 movie Cornelis, with Hans-Erik Dyvik Husby aka Hank von Helvete as the main character, where Cornelis plays it live and says that this is just a song about some random guy, that this is by no means an autobiographic song because his parents, unlike the lyrical subject’s in this song, were respectable people. And indeed, I remember him saying in one interview that his childhood was “idyllic” for the most part, and if we look at these lyrics literally, then a lot of things here certainly are not true about Cornelis. But I guess it doesn’t require a particularly deep analysis if you know a bit about him, to come to the conclusion that it could still relate to him and how he saw himself in a more metaphorical way. It seems to be pretty widely known in Sweden that he struggled a lot with stuff like confidence, self-esteem and all that, also substance misuse obviously and had a rather stormy life in many ways. Plus I suppose it might also be more or less influenced by his socialist worldview. It comes from his second album Ballader ooh Grimascher (Ballads and… well Grimasches, I guess? Some people translate grimasch as grimace but grimace is grimas in Swedish as far as I’m aware, and I’ve never come across the word grimasch outside of Cornelis’ music).
The translation below is Bibiel’s, and I honestly had some vocabulary dilemmas here (the perks of translating between two non-native languages), because it has so many weird slangy words that I had totally no idea what they should be best translated as into English, because I had a more or less vague understanding of what they’re supposed to mean in Swedish, but didn’t know their exact definition, even the slusk in the title. Looking around the Internet, I found quite a few different translations of this word into English, which have some things in common yet are quite different from one another: slop, someone who’s clumsy, lout/bastard, brute, hulk, prone, someone sleazy etc. I doubt that slusk’s meaning is so wide. So eventually I looked it up in my dictionary, which says that slusk means “sloven”. Which makes sense, but I’m not sure if sloven and slusk, despite sharing the same meaning, also have the same vibe and conotations. I guess sloven is pretty dated in English and not really slangy, whereas I’m pretty sure that slusk is very slangy and more or less on the vulgar side. So it’s possible that some of the words in this translation might not be the most fortunate in this slangy context even if their meaning is similar as the original.
I am a sloven, I am a swine I like it rough, but you are fine You drink wine for the sake of pleasure But I like wine ‘cause then I get drunk People like me should be put in cages, shouldn’t they? You like nice stuff, but I like shit Your life is safe, mine to and fro You drive around in those sporty cars With those little ladies with the silly profiles Imagine being able to sleep until late in the day, fuck me! I am filthy, anything but hygiene What have you done, you who are so clean? You are refined and sophisticated I am ruined and degenerated What if we were to switch one day, you and I! I am a sloven, born in a kitchen sink Father, he was alky, mother was a whore My father obviously died in the gutter But your dad took a bullet to the temple The reason was of course unrequited amour towards your mother I am slovenly, you are a fop I am an asshole, of course you’re right But when you are dead I still will be standing And writing an epitaph to be carved into the stone Death with no cause, life with no reason, with no soul
Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s death, so I thought I’d share another song by him with y’all. It is a Scandinavian lullaby, whose origin I believe traces back to Norway, but which has become popularised in Sweden in 1920’s by Evert Taube, whose mother sang it to him. Evert Taube was a Swedish musician and author who is still very well-known today and I guess has a bit of a similar reputation to Vreeswijk, of a troubadour who has contributed a whole lot to the Swedish ballad/visa tradition in the 20th century. He also had a very strong influence on Cornelis’ music and Cornelis recorded several albums with his own interpretations of Taube’s songs. This one comes from his 1969 album titled Cornelis Sjunger Taube (Cornelis Sings Taube). A lot of Taube’s music is influenced by the time he spent as a sailor in South America, (as it happens, Cornelis was also a sailor before starting his career, though in his case I believe he was persuaded into it by his father) ) as many of his songs have strongly South American themes or relate to the sea etc. So it makes sense that this lullaby which is full of sea references would appeal to him. The translation below comes to you directly from Bibielz. In case someone’s really curious what byssal lull means, I guess it holds just as much meaning as luli luli and other similar words that are common for lullabies in all kinds of languages.
Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three wanderers on the road Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three wanderers on the road One, oh so lame The other, oh so blind The third says nothing at all Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three stars wandering on the sky Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three stars wandering on the sky One is oh so white The other is so red The third, it is the yellow moon Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three winds blowing on the seas Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three winds blowing on the seas On the great ocean On the little Skagerack And far, far away in the Gulf of Bothnia Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three ships sailing on the wave Byssan lull, boil the kettle full There are three ships sailing on the wave The first is a bark The second is a brigg The third has such broken sails Byssan lull, boil the kettle full The sea chest has three figures Byssan lull, boil the kettle full The sea chest has three figures The first is our faith The second is our hope The third is the red love
Today I’d like to share with you a song by Cornelis Vreeswijk which always gives me very mixed feelings whenever I listen to it. Not that it’s the only one song by him that I feel rather ambivalent about. On one hand it’s so depressive that it’s beautiful and gripping and I love it, but on the other it’s also so depressive that it feels absolutely endlessly dark and hopeless, and when I look at it from my perspective, which is one of a dysthymic and generally glitchy-brained individual but far more importantly of a Christian, it makes me feel properly sad for all the people who have died, are dying and will die without realising or acknowledging one thing that actually matters about our earthly lives, namely where they lead, especially for those who think there’s just nothing. The thought of such emptiness and nothingness afterwards can be comforting, and I used to wish that it could be the case, because living for eternity even if I’d be happy (whatever happy even meant for me then) felt like it would only be a wearying, never-ending chore. But now I know it’s not like that and something is a lot better than nothing, and if we have souls then it doesn’t make sense that they would just die together with bodies. And it makes me sad that, very often, such people have no one who will pray for them after they die, like among their family or friends and such so even if they do get to purgatory they’ll have to spend ages there. But it also makes me feel grateful and very appreciative and happy that I was raised Christian, and that I can pray for such souls after they die and realise their situation but can no longer help themselves in any way, I really like doing that and trying to be somewhat helpful for people this way, and I can pray for people like that who are still alive for their souls to be moved.
The last verse in this song says «Put spruce twigs by my grave», and when I was going to Sweden with my family a couple years ago on holidays, I decided to take it very literally. While we do have a lot of trees around our backyard, there’s no spruce, but my grandad has several spruces so I took some twigs from one of them with me to Stockholm, bought some beautiful flowers while there and left all of them at Cornelis’ grave. We also wanted to bring a candle like the ones we light in Poland on graves but I was not sure if it’s a thing in Sweden so we didn’t, although it turned out that it is a thing. We also went around that cemetery and prayed for everyone whose grave we saw. I just did that to kind of say: «I’m Bibiel and I’m here and I listen very carefully and I really care, even though I’m Polish and no one else in my country (other than Jacek from Helsinki who’s also dead now) seems to know who you are, and even though we think very differently about almost all the important things, and even though I’m a rightist, and even though I’m gen Z so you died before I was even born». 😀 Cuz like why not? I really liked being able to go there and do that.
There are quite a few songs by Cornelis that feel quite depressive, but I think this one is the most. I guess it’s because it’s very rare for him not to include at least a little bit of humour or irony in his songs, so even if they deal with very difficult topics, there’s a bit of a distance. This one, meanwhile, is deadly serious. The lyrical subject – Fredrik Åkare – is obviously well-known to people who are acquainted with Vreeswijk’s songs and poems, since he’s one of the recurring characters, most well-known from «Balladen om Herr Fredrik Åkare och den Söta Fröken Cecilia Lind» (The Ballad About Mr. Fredrik Åkare and the Sweet Miss Cecilia Lind), which is extremely popular in Sweden and was the first song by Cornelis that I heard. Fredrik Åkare is said to be based on Cornelis’ younger sister’s husband, but often he also seems to be like Vreeswijk’s alter ego or something similar and I think it makes all the sense to assume that here he’s more like the latter.
I remember this song struck me as beautiful but also weird when I heard it for the first few times (I mean what’s the deal with all them spruce twigs and all that?) and I was really curious how all those bits I didn’t feel like I really understood should be interpreted. While I am still not sure of everything, the Swedish Internet holds surprisingly many essays or however things like that should be called in English, all about Cornelis and his works, so I was able to learn more about this song from some of them. As it turns out, there used to be a tradition in Sweden where, on the day of a funeral, people would sprinkle spruce twigs all the way from the dead person’s house to the church. Also I guess that isn’t the case with English, but in Sweden, the person who leads and oversees a funeral was/is literally called a marshal. During a funeral he held some sort of staff decorated with flowers, hence the staff in the lyrics. I was wondering whether I should try to translate the marshals as something that would make more sense in English regarding a funeral but in the end left it as is, since I do literal translations here after all so I guess it should be consistent.
Sprinkle spruce twigs on my bed and let me be born naked. My mother was not awake and I was not afraid. At the bottom of the bitter shafts live those who fear power. If the cold gets too severe put spruce twigs in my bed. Sprinkle twigs on my writing desk And take a gulp of the ink. Come to me under the covers, share my loneliness Now we are the same age. Come, let the visor fall. Come, light a little flame. Sprinkle spruce twigs on us. Sprinkle spruce twigs by my gate, Hang the key on the hook. Who asked you to borrow the book? Return it! Quickly! You restorer of peace with sound and Russian firecrackers, you snow that fell last year Put spruce twigs on my chair. Put spruce twigs by my grave. Let no priests be heard. Do what has to be done. Marshals, break my staff. So it falls in the end though three shovels on my coffin lid. Now I must leave. Put spruce twigs by my grave.
Fairly recently, I shared with y’all a song by Cornelis Vreeswijk called Turistens Klagan and explained in that post how it originally was released in Norway on a double album called Felicias Svenska Suite (Felicia’s Swedish Suite) and why it wasn’t released in Sweden and all that. Well, so today I thought I’d share another song from that album. Felicias Svenska Suite was a concept album, built around the theme of Felicia – a character in the novel Varulven (The Werewolf) by Danish-born Norwegian writer Axel Sandemose – and the song I want to share with you today is about her very directly.
From what I hear, many people in Sweden have a problem with this song. It definitely makes sense in a way, because, well, when I first heard it, it made me bristle up a bit too because it just sounded like a fancier way of saying: “Just shut up and have sex with me). Add to that the fact that Cornelis generally does have a bit of a reputation for being all the appalling things like chauvinist and mysoginist (which I personally think is definitely justified, even though some examples on basis of which he’s been most frequently accused of being those things aren’t really valid examples of those specific attitudes in my opinion) and the bristle factor increases.
But, I’ve known this song for years now and I don’t really see it like that anymore. After all, I do think that, in a healthy relationship, there should be place (and yes, time to be used) for both of these things – talking with/listening to each other as well as sex and physical intimacy. The two, I’d imagine (since the regular people on here know that I have zilch personal experience so I can just imagine) don’t necessarily go very well together, at the same time. So that’s really how I see it now. After all, it doesn’t really sound like the lyrical subject is trying to force Felicia to do anything, just encouraging, albeit very strongly. It actually seems to me that, in a way, he even enjoys her endless chatting, or at least tolerates it leniently, like people tend to grow to tolerate, and then become accustomed to or even fond of, their other half’s shortcomings. I do agree that there IS a hint of slight but very annoying condescension in it, and I believe he doesn’t even listen to her since we don’t learn what she was talking about so incessantly, but let’s just hope that Felicia is similarly magnanimous as her lover appears to be towards her and can be similarly lenient on those flaws of his and doesn’t take it too personally. 😛 Also I’d think that Felicia generally wants it too, just is a bit apprehensive, perhaps even fearful since he tells her not to be afraid and some people do talk a lot when they’re anxious, perhaps she feels the need to explain or discuss some things beforehand and once she says everything she had to say, she gives into it as well. So while it has the potential to make one feel a bit uneasy, I don’t think we can assume that the lyrical subject’s relation to Felicia is abusive or something, just because it kinda sounds like it could be and because Cornelis’ relationships with women irl often went wrong, because there are no real signs of it in this particular piece.
Below is Bibiel’s translation which is probably a bit wrong in a few places. I don’t know exactly what’s the deal with the “dizzy brothers” or who they are lol, but in some other version of this song he sings “thirsty brothers” so I assume this must be some sort of allusion to a song by Povel Ramel called “Törstigaste Bröder” (Thirsty Brothers) which Cornelis had covered as well and which is apparently some sort of parody or something of Fredman’s Epistle 83 by Carl Michael Bellman (Bellman was a famous Swedish 18th century poet and composer by whom Cornelis was very much inspired) which has a crazy ong title that features some three lost brothers, but I’m too ignorant about Bellman to figure this out and what it’s supposed to mean and I’m not even sure if my little theory is true at all.
Felicia talks and talks And love hates All time that is used wrongly That is lying there, dead and stiff All the while Felicia is talking in sixteenth notes.
Felicia, come to my bed now And do not be dressed now Give me your copper mouth I’ll drink it like a well Felicia, do not be afraid now in our moment.
Your sun sets in the south For dizzy brothers Who want what they cannot.
Felicia, see your man And know that he is still glowing Where he was burning before.
Felicia talks too much, The lovely thing Now she’s talking continuously.
But if you kiss her right She gives in to the pressure and makes love Till she is satisfied
For yesterday, I planned to share with you this song by Cornelis that I really like. Or actually, I planned to share with y’all the Swedish version of it mostly because that’s what I know better and actually understand the lyrics and also like slightly more (not that I have anything against the Dutch version, it’s really good too), and then perhaps share the Dutch one as well more for comparison or something, but, surprise, surprise… the Swedish version doesn’t seem to be available to stream anywhere! :O I was totally unaware of this before I started preparing for this post, as I usually don’t listen to Cornelis online, because I have his discography and a lot of live recordings and just all kinds of stuff I could get anywhere on an SD card, and I was a bit shocked, because it’s from a fairly popular album of his – “Poem, Ballader och Lite BLues” (Poems, Ballads and a bit of Blues) – which is one of my favourite albums of his, by the way. The album technically exists on Spotify, but only some tracks are actually playable so they’re either deleted or have location restrictions perhaps, and there’s nothing on YouTube. Even good ol’ Songwhip didn’t seem to find anything, all it found was either covers of this song, or wasn’t available despite SongWhip was showing a link to it. So quite interesting. And I guess it wouldn’t really be okay if I just shared a link to my own audio file with it even if I took it down after some time.
But yeah, we still have the Dutch version! I’ve shared very little of Cornelis music in his native language, and he’s apparently a lot less known in the Netherlands than he is in Sweden, so that’s a good opportunity to share something Dutch by him.
As I said I really like this song because it’s so freakishly relatable. I think anyone who has depression, especiallly of the very long-term, chronic, lingering or constantly recurring variety that sticks to your brain like thick, crusty mucus (ewww Bibiel!), whether it’s dysthymia like for me or major depression or bipolar or anything like that, will be able to relate to it, and I guess particularly so if anhedonia is in the picture for someone as well, since this hopeless blues basically steals from you anything that has any kind of meaning or that you like. Another way in which it’s relatable for me is also that hopeless blues’ parasitic relationship with Cornelis/the lyrical subject reminds me in a lot of ways of my sleep paralysis and sensory anxiety “friend” whom I call “Ian” on here, who is not a blues as such but also follows me everywhere and doesn’t let me forget about himself for too long and can spoil anything fun.
Before I realised that there’s no Swedish version available that I could share with you, I already did a translation of it into English, and I don’t like my brainergy to go to waste so even though I’m not sharing the song in Swedish with you, I’ll still share the translation of it. The Dutch version isn’t very different from what I know, just some details are different that don’t really change the whole point.
Hopeless blues Has moved to where I live He is lying under the bed, chewing on my shoes
It was late at night I came from somewhere It was late at night I came from somewhere And when I turned the light on There was hopeless blues sitting in the corner Hopeless blues You are a parasite Hopeless blues You are a parasite What are you doing here? Why did you came here?
Every morning when I wake up Hopeless blues lies in my kitchen Every morning when I wake up Hopeless blues lies in my kitchen He drinks up my coffee Nicks my last cig
He borrows my clothes And he borrows my guitar as well He borrows my clothes And he borrows my guitar as well He scares away all the ladies Who come here and visit
My home is a desert My life a parody My home is a desert My life a parody I have been saddled with hopeless blues I will never be free Please, Ms. Therapist I can’t take it anymore Please, Ms. Therapist I can’t take it anymore May I ask hopeless blues To move in with you?
Edited to add:
Hiya, T’is Bibiel from the future chiming in. 🙂 In addition to the Swedish translation shared above, now I also have a translation of the Dutch version for you, which was kindly written for me by Hans Heemsbergen.
Hopeless blues, lives where I live these days
Hopeless blues, lives where I live these days
He’s in my smoking chair and he’s playing on my gramophone
I was out one night, it was getting late my luck was gone
I was out one night, it was getting late my luck was gone
And when I finally got home, hopeless blues was sitting in a corner
Hopeless blues, you’re a parasite
Hopeless blues, you’re a parasite
What are you doing here because I really don’t need you
Every morning when I wake up he is sitting next to my bed
Every morning when I wake up he is sitting next to my bed
He drinks my coffee and he steals my last cigarette
I feel like I haven’t shared anything from Cornelis in a while so thought I would today, especially that earlier this month (on 8 August more exactly) was his birthday, but sharing his songs usually means I have to translate them if I only can, well lol I don’t have to but I think it’s best to listen to them knowing what you’re listening to, and earlier this month I didn’t really feel like trying to translate anything more complicated cus sensory anxiety. I was actually quite sure that I must’ve shared this song in the past because it’s such a classic in Sweden (and I believe even Norway to an extent), but clearly I haven’t so it’s as good a time as any to introduce you people to this one finally.
In 1978, Cornelis released a double concept album called Felicias Svenska Suite (Felicia’s Swedish Suite), which focused largely on Felicia – a Roman character from the book Varulven (The Werewolf) by Danish-born Norwegian writer Axel Sandemose. Weirdly enough (at least for my little brain) no Swedish record label wanted to release it, if I understand correctly it was because of the connection to that book. I wonder was it a case of Scandinavian sibling rivalry and that Swedes didn’t want to release something that was based on a Norwegian book or is that book somehow anti-Swedish (I’ve always wanted to read it just out of sheer curiosity but I’ve never got to find an electronic copy in any language so I’ve no real clue what it’s about other than Felicia and that she has an affair while being married to another guy) or was there something more complicated going on? Anyways, as a result, he ended up releasing it in Norway. However, this very song I’m bringing you today ended up becoming very popular in Sweden, so eventually, two years later, one Swedish label did decide to release the second half of this double album, titled Turistens Klagan. Something about Varulven must have really put them off though because the songs from the first half were only released in Sweden in the 2000’s, so like almost twenty years after Cornelis’ death.
The song is narrated by a tourist vacationing in Oslo (near Karl Johan’s Street as you’ll find out from the lyrics) who’s quite depressed and tired, I’ve seen interpretations that he’s suicidal, but I guess “quitting” doesn’t necessarily have to mean as much as wanting to die, though it’s certainly possible. What pulls him out of his blues is hearing children singing outside.
Honestly, this is one of quite a few songs by Cornelis that I feel quite ambivalent about. Usually when I do, is because I love them musically or for some other small yet important aspects, but can’t agree with his point of view, since our views on such grave things like politics, for example, differ almost as greatly as they possibly can, which makes it feel a real irony in a way that I ended up developing a faza on him. 😀 But, this song is one of those with which it’s the opposite for me. I like the lyrics, but I just totally don’t care for it musically. It’s just so meh it’s a shame. I’m not sure it’s the right ENglish word to capture exactly what I mean, but I’d say it’s tacky. The melody is sure catchy but doesn’t really grab your attention, and these kids in there are pretty annoying. 😀 Oh yeah, and I think I’ve said on here already that I’m not a fan of the accordion in general, except perhaps for a few odd pieces by Maria Kalaniemi or Kimmo Pohjonen. So yeah, musically this song isn’t quite as frisson-inducing as some others from this album, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about this song. But perhaps this arrangement is also part of why it ended up being so popular, I feel that a lot of Scandinavian music that was popular and at the same time kind of bordering on folky was a bit kitschy like that, in fact I suppose this was the trend in most of Europe. Some sources like the Swedish Wikipedia credit Franz von Suppé as the additional composer, so this tune must be “stolen” from him, but I don’t know from which piece though I’ve been mildly curious, but not enough to ever go hunting.
The translation below is by Bibielz, and it’s very likely that there are some weird errors in there, but not so much because I didn’t know what something meant or how to put it in English, rather, because I’ve always had a problem understanding what’s the second verse really about, I mean it seems highly metaphorical to me or else I must be ignorant or something. So I just translated it literally except for a couple odd words, as I didn’t know how to do it better. I’ve always been really curious what that verse is about, and thought now that I’d do a translation for you guys, perhaps my mind will open and I’ll figure it out somehow, but I haven’t. I was the best in my class at poem analysis, but overall I don’t think I’m all that good at it at all, my classmates just happened to be even worse. I found a forum thread where people discussed interpretations of just one of the lines in that verse, (about rubbing your skin with nettles so you’ll get warm) and everyone had a different idea. Someone said it could mean something like don’t complain about small things, like, just rub your skin with nettles if you’re cold so you’ll get warm and stop whining. But I don’t think it could be the case because, well duh, it’s a lament, he IS kind of complaining, even if he finds the presence of children to be hopeful, so that would be kind of illogical. Someone else said that it could be about solutions to problems that aren’t necessarily the best ones out there, but that still kind of solve the problem, like there are sure more effective and pleasant ways to warm yourself up than rubbing your skin with nettles but this will also work, for lack of anything better. This is an interesting option but I’m not sure I see how it fits into the whole of this song. And then others yet say it’s just supposed to be comical. Which I think is true, it is likely meant to be comical/humourous in a way, but I doubt it’s the main or only purpose of this verse, because the rest of this song isn’t really comical so my best bet is that the comism is supposed to emphasise something else more important here. And still, we have all those other lines in this verse. What’s the deal with language slipping because the snow is wet though it’s cold? And what’s skiing got to do with that? And, probably the biggest question here, why are fake (or literally “crooked”) nettles and people who sell them so very bad? I wish we could know…
Some children are singing on Karl Johan They sound strong and nice as only children can I myself am under lock and key in my hotel An evening behind the barricade, an ordinary evening Over my head hovers a jet black vulture In the room next to mine a crazy lady is singing And I am tired and doubtful but their song is happy If there will be no kids, I’ll quit. My lady, that language slips in some cases [is?] Because of the snow that is wet though it is cold Big deal, skiing has charm as well Rub your skin with nettles, so you’ll get warm But it should be nettles from the bayside And no fake nettles from the brink of ruin Deliver us from those who sell them As well as these happy children out there. When there are no children, everything is over So what’s the point of standing out? Certainly there has been chaos throughout history But as long as there are children, there is hope.
Yeah I know I shared a song by Cornelis only two days ago, but that one was sung by Sarah Riedel and this one is sung by himself, whereas it was written by someone else, so it’s a different category.
This song, just like the one called Babyland which I shared earlier this month, was written by Jan Ero Olsen from the Norwegian duo Tobben og Ero. I didn’t write a translation of this one, because there are some bits that I’m just not sure how to translate literally. But I can tell you that in this song, the lyrical subject is wondering what the “you” from the title is doing now in her life, and whether she’s perhaps in another relationship and what it might be like, and reflecting a little on his own relationship with her.
Would you believe that I had a dream about COrnelis Vreeswijk last night?! :O This used to be a fairly regular occurrence back when he was my dominant faza peep, and this very normal for me to have dreams about my faza peeps while my faza on them is the dominant one, but my faza on Cornelis faded in 2017 and I still occasionally have dreams featuring him, or even have random minor faza peaks on him, usually for no apparent reason – just because. – This is quite nice, and doesn’t really happen with my other faza peeps, well, I do still get peaks on Gwilym Bowen Rhys, but that’s simply because he’s the most active of my faza people and keeps releasing something on a regular basis.
It was a long, super cool and hilarious dream, if slightly surreal and awkward at times, and I liked it very much, the more that I had it soon after a sleep paralysis session so it had some healing effect on my brain battered by “Ian”and I was able to wake up in a pretty good state, with only a vague memory of the sleep paralysis part, and I was not very impressed when Misha finally woke me up.
Anyway, I’m talking about this because I decided that, for this reason, it would be a good idea to share some song by Cornelis in our song of the day series. And so that’s what I’m doing.
This song comes from the album called Cornelis vs Riedel, and contains fifteen songs which (aside from one) were never released by him or even set to music. The music was composed by jazz musician Georg Riedel, and the songs are sung by his daughter Sarah and Nicolai Dunger. I’ve actually already shared at least three pieces from this album on here, because I really love pretty much everything about it, which may seem weird given that I’m not very much of a jazz person, but this album is still very accessible as a whole even if you’re not, with so much (but not too much, which can sometimes be a very delicate balance) expressivity and the minimalistic arrangements.
This song is for Linnea, who is a recurring person in Cornelis’ various songs and poems, like This one that I shared earlier this year. It is possible that this Linnea has to do with his second wife – the actress Birgitta Gunvor Linnea “Bim” Warne. – I find this song very interesting because listening to pretty much all the Linnea songs that Cornelis has released himself, I guess one can easily get an idea that their relationship was all happy and really fulfilling for both, but this song shows it from a bit of a different angle.
Bibiels decided to try and translate it into English for y’all, although Bibiels can’t say that it’s as good as Bibiels would like it to be, but Bibiels trust that it’s not too bad either.
The thing I really wish for, For which my heart is burning, And what I never ask for, You do not realise. The thing I really want, All while the forest is greening. Sometimes gone during the day, I come when you have fallen asleep, Wake what has gone numb, And which I love tenderly. Do you think you have dreamt? No! But you are being deceived! You wake up and you see me, See me wanting for nothing, But when you refuse to wake up, Or you hear nothing – Know that I would rather die, Than I would ever ask you. The words of love are short, Are you talking or panting? Whenever your clock chimes, I listen to your voice. The roe deer in your chest, Laughs and is gone. You whom my heart longs for, You whom my heart yearns for You unto whom is my desire, Do you promise me and swear, To listen to my request? All while the sea is greening.
Thought I’d share with you a song from Cornelis Vreeswijk, ‘cause I haven’t shared anything by him in a while or so it feels. I think this one is very interesting lyrically. It comes from his album Mannen som Älskade Träd (The Man Who Loved Trees) which was recorded in Tromsø in Norway two years before Cornelis’ death. In this song’s credits it says that it was written by Vreeswijk as well as Jan Ero Olsen, who is a Norwegian musician known from the duo Tobben og Ero. Indeed, if you know Cornelis’ music a bit, you can notice that it doesn’t sound very “Cornelisk” as Swedes would say, where its melody is concerned, but I’d always thought that, well, obviously the lyrics must be Cornelis’, ‘cause there’s ANn-Kat(a)rin Rosenblad in here, a very frequently recurring character in Vreeswijk’s songs and poems. But, a couple days ago, I was reading Youtube comments for this song, and lots of people are saying that it was Ero who wrote the lyrics as well. I’m just not sure if he wrote them particularly for Cornelis, or was it his own song initially that then was adapted by Cornelis like he did with many songs of many musicians, or something like that. I’m more inclined to think the former though, because I haven’t been able to find anything that would look like the potential original.
Below are the lyrics translated by Bibiel:
The ring is closed and in the middle of the ring I am riding away towards Babyland The horse is made of the purest gold The Manege is sprinkled with silver sand The anxiety is behind my back in the evening Somebody has set the ring on fire The silver glitters so wildly from the river Bringing Me Back to Svealand Hey, I’ve gotten a bit off track Help me so that I can find the peace again Outside a cold violin is playing Close the window, Ann-Katarin Ann-Katarin, feel the winds calm down The fire from the ring feels good and warm I think you are the silver that I most long for Let me hide in your bosom Hey, I’ve gotten a bit off track Help me so that I can find the peace again Outside a cold violin is playing Close the window, Ann-Katarin
have a quirky little song from Finland for you today. It was originally sung by a very famous Finnish 50’s singer Tapio Rautavaara (who also happened to be a successful Olympic athlete, mainly a javelin thrower) and for whom it was his first huge hit as far as I know. This song was written for him by Reino Helismaa. In 1980, Cornelis Vreeswijk – one of my faza peeps as I’m sure all of the regular readers know – released an album called En Spjutkastares Visor (Songs of a Javelin Thrower), with Swedish translations of Rautavaara’s songs. I’ve already shared in the past one song from that album of his, called Den Blåa Drömmen in Swedish, or Sininen Uni in Finnish, or The Blue Dream in English, which is a very cute lullaby all about Sandman. This one isn’t quite so cute, despite the fact that it involves a cat. I’ve read somewhere that Helismaa was inspired to write this song by some sort of a book where there was a story telling about how a poor man’s happiness is an illusion. While I never like generalisations like that, I think what this song shows well is that human autosuggestion knows no boundaries, especially in a crisis situation like this when one is freezing. Also Tapio Rautavaara himself said that the black cat here symbolises death. Whenever I listen to this I just feel relieved that the traveller didn’t actually try to light up a proper fire in there, ‘cause what would happen to the poor cat! 😱
In the post where I shared that Blue Dream song, I also shared a Finnish version, sung not by Rautavaara but a more modern one sung by Suvi Teresniska and Arttu Viskari. I love the Finnish language and Finnish music, and I realise that there’s a large disproportion of how much Swedish music there is on my blog compared to Finnish, but Rautavaara himself is way beyond my comfort zone, I don’t really do fifties’ music, so I actually sat down and listened to like a dozen of different versions of this song in Finnish (it’s called Reissumies ja Kissa in the original) to hopefully find one that would catch my attention. But I found none that would actually speak to me and about which I’d feel that I like it enough to want to make people aware of its existence. So just Vreeswijk’s version it is.
I’ve managed to make an English translation of this translation, which is definitely not free of errors. The word that I decided to translate as traveller in English is “luffare” in Swedish and “reissumies” in Finnish. As far as I’m aware, luffare is more like a tramp kind of traveller rather than just any traveller, but I guess reissumies is more general, so it made more sense to translate it as just traveller rather than tramp. If you have some idea about Swedish and/or Finnish and think that tramp, or perhaps something yet different, woould be a better word to describe this guy in English, lemme know. There’s an expression in this song (har man sett på maken” which had always puzzled me and I could never understand it. Finally though, today I learned that it literally means something like “Have you seen the like”, so it’s just like an expression of disbelief or surprise. I didn’t know how to best put it in English so it wouldn’t sound clumsy or unaesthetical yet still be somewhat accurate. Wiktionary says that it could be translated as “golly”, but “golly” alone didn’t seem to convey the level of emotions I believe he must’ve had so I decided on “golly, have you seen anything like this” which I guess does convey it but I’m not sure if it sounds natural in English. Oh, and then there was the obscure word kosa, which took me ages to figure out what it means, and it turns out it’s some rarely used or perhaps even archaic word for road. I translated it simply as way, but perhaps there’s a word that could be just as accurate yet fit better in English with the obscure/archaic or perhaps somewhat sophisticated feel that the word kosa seems to have in Swedish. I’ve also found a translation of the Finnish version, which as far as I, as a (yet) non-Finnish speaker can tell is also not free from errors, but I guess it still can give us an idea how different these two versions are so if you’re curious the link is here, and below is Bibiel’s translation of the Swedish version.
A traveller goes whistling on the road to somewhere And it is dark and it is night Our Lord, no one else, knows his destination And with himself he has a black cat And of course the traveller is cheerful but he feels cold He longs to a fireplace in a Quiet corner of the home A traveller goes whistling on the road to somewhere And it is dark and it is night
But look there in the forest, with the door half ajar A cabin where no one lives A refuge for the night as if sent from heaven And the traveller’s gratitude is huge So he whistles at the cat, but the cat he disappeared And the traveller is freezing so he’s just as happy For cats have nine lives, after all, and will probably be fine All in the cold, black forest But golly, have you seen anything like this, there’s glow in the stove He sits down very close to it If I’ll blow on the fire, it will be extinguished This will have to be enough He warms his hands, he thinks everything is well [?] And Pleasant thoughts fill his soul He falls asleep and he wakes up and he is freezing like a dog In the bleak morning hours In the ashes has the cat spent his night There was never any glow in this stove What was glowing in the dark was the eye of a cat But the fire was cold and dead But the traveller is just as happy, brooding would make him listless He Whistles a song and goes with his cat Our Lord and no one else knows where his way goes A traveller is out walking
Although I didn’t celebrate it on here like I did in some previous years, the fact is that, on January 25, Jack Vreeswijk had his 58th birthday (time is most definitely flying, as, at least according to my dyscalculic brain, it means that I’ve had a faza on Cornelis Vreeswijk for eight years now, because when it all started out Jack was 50). And so I decided that I would share a song by Jack, or something that Cornelis wrote for Jack, this month, even though some time has already passed since his birthday.
Cornelis had written several songs for Jack, one of them – “Vaggvisa” – I’ve already shared in the past. The song about Jack that I want to share with you now is a lot more cheerful than “Vaggvisa” and also has an interesting message in it.
For a long time, I didn’t even quite know what the title of this song means because it looks weird, and that’s because it’s quite slangy. In Swedish, as I guess in most languages, people reduce quite a lot of sounds while speaking. And so when we ask a question, let’s say “How are you?” For example, which is “Hur mår du?” In Swedish, in speech the “d” in “du” will change into a retroflex consonant when it occurs after “r”, and then many people reduce it even further so that it sounds more like “Hur mårru?” Or even “Hur mår’u?” I’ve been aware of this for a long time, but I didn’t know it’s a thing in writing (well, I guess it’s normally not, but in this case it is 😀 ). Additionally, I didn’t know what the verb “att haja” as in “hajar’u” means (now I know it’s a colloquial word for to understand). And then the word “de”, in standard, written Swedish, it means “they” and would be pronounced as “dom” but in more casual writing, “de” can also be a shortened, phonetic way of spelling the word “det” which means “it” or “this”. But all this slanginess was quite confusing for me for a long time and I just didn’t know how to translate it. Now I theoretically know, but still I suppose it could have been translated better into English than I did, but I had no better ideas, plus, with neither English or Swedish being my native language, the only thing I aim to do is making a literal translation so that you can get an idea of what a song is about, rather than a poetic one. Generally while I think I understand these lyrics well in their entirety, putting that into English was quite difficult.
I really like this song. As you’ll find out from the translation below, it is about little Jack’s first, unconventional artistic endeavours. One can wonder whether Jack is so extremely imaginative, or perhaps colour-blind, but he doesn’t care what others think of his creations and keeps on painting, which his dad strongly encourages and tells him to do what he wants and not care about criticism. I really like that! I think so many parents would be something like: “Oh no, Jack! Trees aren’t black, you should redo this!” Or even discourage him from painting altogether, possibly undermining his self-esteem and confidence in general, not just in regards to painting and creative expression. Maybe in his brainworld trees are black, and why not? I guess nowadays this kind of experimental art is quite trendy, or that’s what I’ve once been told, though I’m no visual arts expert so what do I know. 😀 I wonder if Jack still paints, and if he still uses “wrong” colours. 🙂 Here’s the translation:
And the black trees and the sun that is blue The sea is blue as well And the people are ugly and beautiful and yellow On the picture that you are making Nothing that disturbs Do you get this then, Jack? Can you understand? One has to paint like this And dad is working and mum has gone out The TV is soon over And mum she is strict she, she puts you to bed she But the picture that you have It must be finished first, after all Do you get this then, Jack? Do you fathom this? For I would like to see this You, the art criticism is boring and dull It is the last to understand you And then some say that the colour, it is wrong So don’t care about it You know what you know Do you get this then, Jack? Do you get them? They are nothing to care about Do you get this then, Jack? What you want to have Might be good Just so you are happy, it doesn’t matter what the picture looks like Don’t care about criticism Do you get this then, Jack? Do what you want That’s how it is
Today I thought that I’d share with you one of the songs that Cornelis Vreeswijk wrote to a woman called Linnea. All these Linnea songs are more or less erotically charged, and I always liked to think that this Linnea is at least based on his second wife – the actress Bim Warne – whose actual name was Birgitta Gunvor Linnea, and because I’ve always got the impression that, despite all the usual relationship storminess that was pretty much the norm in his life, his relationship with Bim was best out of his three wives. Besides, the album “Linneas Fina Visor” (Linnea’s Fine Songs) on which most if not all (can’t remember exactly) of the Linnea songs were released, came out when they were still a couple. And I still don’t know whether that is actually the case, but years later I read something that implied quite strongly that it’s possible. Especially that he based a lot of his characters on real life people. There’s also another version of this song called Till Gunnel. Honestly though, I’ve always been intrigued by what’s Leonard Cohen got to do with this, and I can only assume that, since Vreeswijk borrowed a lot of songs or melodies or motives etc. from other artists who wrote and/or sang in other languages, that includes “Nancy” by Cohen, so perhaps in some way it’s also the case with this one, perhaps it’s based on some song that was originally Leonard Cohen’s or something like that. But because I don’t really have much of an idea about Leonard Cohen’s music, I’ve no idea if this is true.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to write a translation for this, but I did it, and it wasn’t even all that difficult, though I did have several issues witt it. There’s one line that I absolutely cannot make out what it’s supposed to mean so I had no better option than to leave it out. In some places I feel like my English wording is a little off but I had no better ideas. Then there is the line that I translated as “Of my mother’s only son” but have a problem with the “of” because there’s actually the Swedish word “på” used in the original, which is typically translated as on, but it doesn’t really make sense to me. I of course know that prepositions work very differently from one language to another, but even in Swedish I feel like the word “av”, which would literally translate as “of” to English, would make much more sense here. So either my Swedish is a lot less advanced than I think (not that I think it’s actually, properly Advanced, but you don’t have to be extremely advanced to understand prepositions in a language I believe 😀 ), or I don’t understand the sense of this line, or perhaps “på” can be used instead of “av” in some more poetic contexts like here.
Another line I had ann issue with was about the pen that floats, where I left out a word because I had no idea what to do with it. The original word is “värdig” and it literally means worthy. Can a pen be worthy? Perhaps it’s supposed to mean something like that that it’s dear to him in a way, or deserving of appreciation, because it’s the pen with which he writes songs for Linnea and no other pen would suit this? That’s what came to my mind, but I doubt that it’s actually true. Perhaps in this case “värdig” is meant to be an adverb, but then it should be “värdigt”. You can have adverbs that look like their adjective counterparts in Norwegian, but I don’t think I’ve seen it in Swedish (well, unless an adjective ends with a “t” but that’s irrelevant here). So what is most likely imo is that the word “värdig” must have a wider scope than what I’m aware of.
Today I’m sharing with you something from Jack Vreeswijk, but quite different from most of his music. For those newbies here who have very little idea who Jack (and Cornelis) Vreeswijk is, I’ll very briefly explain that Jack is the son of Cornelis, and Cornelis Vreeswijk was a singer, songwriter and poet, currently very famous in Sweden, despite actually being Dutch as he emigrated to Sweden as a child. Jack is also a great musician, writing his own music and covering his dad’s.
In 2010, Amir Chamdin made a film about Cornelis Vreeswijk’s life, which was the first ever film in Swedish that I watched (totally wasn’t easy especially without any audiodescription at all but I ended up watching it many many times so in the end it was a success 😀 ). Since the film is all about a musician, there’s a lot of music in it. And the original soundtrack has been written by Jack. I felt a whole lot of sadness when watching this film, and still when I listen to this soundtrack, I always have the same feelings. So this is the main theme from this film.
Something I heard earlier today reminded me of this song and it made me wonder whether I’ve shared it on here. I was quite sure I must have, because I really like this song in Vreeswijk’s interpretation, but, a bit oddly I suppose, that turns out not to be the case so I’m sharing it today.
This song was written by Lars Forssell, one of the artists by whom Cornelis was quite strongly inspired, a very versatile writer, and member of the Swedish Academy, who clearly, like Vreeswijk himself, must have had at least some socialist inclinations, which I base solely on the songs he wrote that were interpreted by Cornelis as I’m not really familiar with Forssell’s other works. Cornelis recorded a whole album, called “Visor, Svarta och Röda” (Songs, Black and Red) with interpretations of songs written by Forssell.
This song, however, is not exactly Forssell’s original work, because it’s a translation or should we say an adaptation, of a song written and recorded by American musician Tucker Zimmerman called “She’s an Easy Rider”.
It’s kind of weird that I like this song, actually. It’s nothing exciting musically, it feels super hippie, it’s a lot of things that I’m just not, or that I don’t really necessarily look out for in music. While I think I understand people who feel the way Helena does, that freedom is basically not having roots and wandering more or less aimlessly through life without too many possessions or connections to bring you down, I’m more inclined to think that freedom is something a lot more internal, and that actually, some sense of having roots can be helpful in feeling more free, at least in my experience. I get it that there’s no one, “true” way of experiencing freedom, and Helena’s way must have been quite appealing to Cornelis from all that I know about him, but mine is vastly different, so it’s not like I find this song hugely resonating or anything. Yet I do like it.
And I think the sole reason is how evocative it is. Seriously, looking at the English original, it feels like it must have been the Swedish version that came first, because it’s so much more detailed, and gives us a much more sophisticated idea of this girl, well, she even has a name, which gives me a lot to work with as a name nerd. Listening to this, I can easily imagine this Helena girl and what she’s like. And I was mightily surprised when I learned that this is not originally a Swedish song and that it’s so much poorer in the original. The bonus point is due to the fact that Helena has been my all-time favourite name. I initially felt that it sort of clashed with the heroine’s kinda rebel personality, because that’s not at all the default image I get for the name Helena, which I perceive as very refined and girly and subtle, but I think that’s what makes it all the more interesting and kind of multi-dimensional, suggesting that either there might be more to her than meets the eye, meaning that there might be some other layer of her personality that is more like a Helena that she just doesn’t show the world, or that just like she’s generally a very unconventional person, she might also be a very unconventional Helena, different from most of her fellow namesakes.
And then we have a translation of a translation, because Cornelis not only recorded it in Swedish, but also decided to translate it to Dutch.
I can’t speak Dutch as of yet, and haven’t been able to find a good translation of the Dutch version, but based on some words that I think I understand via English or Swedish or because I know them, and because after all it’s a translation, I doubt it differs in any very substantial way from the Swedish version.
I was able to translate the Swedish one though, which should give you an idea of what it’s about.
I’ve shared quite a few songs by Cornelis Vreeswijk on this blog so far, but I believe I’ve never shared any of his interpretations of poems written by Carl Michael Bellman, a Swedish 18th century poet and musician whose works are still popular in Scandinavia. From what I know, part of why he is still well-known in his home country is thanks to Vreeswijk, who sort of gave a new life to some of his works, in particular Fredmans Epistlar (Fredman’s Epistles) which are poems set to, I believe mostly traditional, tunes.
Perhaps the reason why I so far haven’t shared any of those Vreeswijk interpretations of Bellman is that I don’t really find those Bellman’s poems hugely relatable. I mean, I absolutely love this old language, and I like how he portrays Stockholm from so many different sides in those poems and that it all feels still very alive and human and full of humour despite being ages old, but I just can’t say it speaks to me on any deeper level, unlike some of Cornelis’ own music. I remember my first encounters with those epistles and being all indignant and like, gosh, the guy must have had some proper drinking obsession. 😀 Everything there revolves more or less around drinking (alternatively copulating and the like) in various contexts. Of course, when you have a closer look, it’s not the only thing these epistles are supposed to be about, but still, it’s the dominating theme, and as a non-, or hardly-ever-drinker, I just don’t feel it. Perhaps more importantly, I’m not a Swede… well okay, neither was Cornelis, but practically he almost was as he lived in Sweden since the age of 12. Oddly enough, while Bellman isn’t really well-known outside of his home country and if you asked some random Polish folks if they know who he was I doubt anyone would have a clue, Fredman’s Epistles were actually translated into Polish, by Leonard Neuger, and I was even able to get hold of this translation when I was having a major faza on Vreeswijk, and when you have a major faza on someone you want to know as much as possible about the individual and he had quite a strong interest in Bellman so I wanted to read them just out of curiosity and in Swedish that wouldn’t be possible with all that archaic language. Except, I didn’t even end up reading the entire collection in Polish either. I really like reading books written in archaic or obsolete language in Polish but this one felt extremely clunky, often I felt like I couldn’t even quite follow what I was reading. 😀 Maybe I’m less competent in my own language than I think, but it didn’t make me like Bellman anymore. Still, it’s funny how there’s all that fancy, archaic, sophisticated and sublime language, while the themes are what they are, I like disonances like that.
Apart from all the drinking, a very characteristic element of Fredman’s Epistles is a woman called Ulla Winblad (she’s a lot like Ann-Katarin Rosenblad in Vreeswijk’s songs and poems), and she seems to be some kind of a nymph or other deity or something like that but at the same time something like a prostitute, anyway the narrator – Fredman – definitely has a huge crush on her to put it colloquially and simplistically.
This epistle has also to do with Ulla, and while of course there are a few mentions of wine here, it’s pretty low-key and it’s a pastoral so it has a very idyllic feel to it. The melody, apparently, was in case of this epistle written by Bellman himself. A shorter title under which this epistle is known is Ulla, Min Ulla (Ulla, My Ulla) or Ulla, Min Ulla, Säj Får Jag Dig Bjuda (Ulla, My Ulla, Say, May I Thee Offer) and the long name under which it functions on Vreeswijk’s album is the subtitle.
And as we can figure out from this subtitle, what we have here is a scene where Fredman basically sings a serenade to Ulla, sitting on a horse outside her window at lunchtime on a summer’s day in a place north of Stockholm called Fiskartorpet which is some sort of a recreational area. He’s thirsty and apparently also sleepy and invites Ulla to come out to him and eat and promises her all sorts of food. While sitting and eating together, they admire and relish the view of the place, and Fredman asks Ulla “Isn’t it heavenly?”, and she meekly agrees.
This poem, as many others, was inspired by Bellman’s friendship with a wealthy and quite interesting lady called Helena Quiding, who had her summer house called Heleneberg, where she frequently invited him as well as a circle of some other friends, and this house still exists in Fiskartorpet.
I really really like Cornelis’ skillful and delicate interpretation of this piece. He recorded it on his 1971 album with Bellman interpretations called Spring mot Ulla, Spring! (Run to Ulla, Run!).
I guess there have been several English translations of Fredman’s Epistles, but a more recent one was written by Eva Toller, and it’s her translation that I’m including in this piece. She has her own website and you can find it